Lighting the Corners of My Mind On Fire – OR What I’d Really Like To Do With Your Pile of Data
A recent phone call:
Big Momma Mimi:I’ve loved all your posts recently honey.
Me: I have nothing to write about and tomorrow is only day twelve. I am seconds away from blogging about what happened to me at the chiropractor’s office last week or maybe the laundry. But somehow, I don’t think that’s educationally relevant.
Big Momma Mimi: Well, we’re doing Progress Monitoring right now. You could always write about that.
Ah, yes. “Progress Monitoring” or some idiot’s genius alternative to the words “Data Collection.” (Also known as “A Period Of Time When No Observable Teaching Occurrs Because The Teacher Is Lost In A Flurry of Checklists, Graphs, Running Records and Number Two Pencils.”) At my school, there were some assessments for which we had to “monitor progress” every two weeks. TWO WEEKS! So, if it takes me two days to complete the testing…
Wait, that sounds like a great number story! Ready? Get those pencils out!
“A teacher teaches for for 6 hours every day. She works five days a week. Every ten days she has to take four to six hours away from her regular teaching to Progress Monitor her at risk students, who need more instructional time than any other group. If she takes four to six hours of teaching away every ten days, how much teaching time is left over?
(Gets up for eraser.)
(Chews on end of pencil.)
Answer: Not enough, friends, not enough. Certainly not enough to warrant “Progress Monitoring” when really children just need to be making process.
Now, I’m not against assessing. Not at all. I LOVED sitting back and looking at how my friends did on certain assessments, reveling in their progress. I mean, nothing makes a teacher feel better than seeing those numbers go up, up, up! On the flip side, I also loved sitting with a well-designed assessment, a cup of coffee, a stack of Post Its and my beloved Sharpies, thinking about ways in which my children’s mistakes were going to direct my future teaching. I relished creating new small groups and making new plans of action for struggling friends.
Here’s what I didn’t like.
Assessments that were collosal wastes of my time. And my friends time.
Assessments that were poorly designed. The same assessments that my Super Colleagues and I volunteered to upgrade, on our own time, so that they were better reflective of our students’ needs and progress. The same assessments that the Bacon Hunter insisted that we continue to use in their original form for no apparent reason other than teachers should just do what they’re told. (Kind of makes you want to stab someone with your recnetly sharpened lucky test-taking number two pencil, doesn’t it?)
Or, assessments given as part of a good old dog and pony show.
So if you are out there somewhere dutifully monitoring progress, collecting data, pulling your hair out – whatever you want to call it – my heart goes out to you.